Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Lessons of Lanquin

This Lanquin, why is it important?  What's so special about this place? Well there's a lot about this village beyond the lagoons of Semuc Champey. I ate my best meal here.  I woke up emotionally inside here. My baby sister almost died here during a freak monsoon storm in the rain forest on the Coban river.  If you knew me personally, I'm a joker during my lectures and a quiet thinker at home.  Very little provokes an emotion in my own life.  But almost losing my sister was probably the scariest thing I've ever experienced in my life.  If it happened to me, I could care less because I chose my path and am okay with the consequences. But when a random act of nature entered the pic, I went into survival mode for my sister.  For the rest of my life, I will remember this little village on the odd glowing green river in the middle of the jungle.
It began in the strange city of Coban.  Cold.  Misty.  A long trek from Guatemala City and far away from the logical world of modern day.  I remember entering the village and seeing all the different Mayan groups with different family colors and designs at the central market.  I wanted to get out from the bus, but I felt that if I left, the bus would take off and I'd be somewhere stranded.  Part of me wished that it would happen, but my youngest sister was me.  As the eldest sibling, I am very protective when it comes to my family.  But I've never had to show them that side of me because it's never been needed until this trip.  We crammed into a transit bus to the village of Lanquin which took what seemed like hours!  But we arrived.
On this leg of the trip, we would face a screaming girl bitten by an Emperor Scorpion at 2 in the morning. 

She hadn't searched through her sheets before she got into bed. The lights went out inside our cabana and our travel buddy felt something on her arm.  She slapped it and it stung her.  When the lights went on, the large dark crablike insect met its fate.  But by that time, the venom had already set into her arm and our friend began to see the poster of the Mayan woman's face moving around.  Her body cramped and she panicked.  There were no doctors in the village to help and all she could do is wait.  After several days, she felt better again.  But there would be more adventures around the corner in this village.....
We thought it would be fun to go tubing on the Coban river, but what I hadn't known was that my sister was afraid of water.  Plus the water in the river "glowed" a strange green color.  Being from the desert, I recognized, while on the river, that a storm had begun on one side of the forest while we were in the middle of tubing.  The canopy from the trees created this eery and dark feeling.....and the water currents started picking up.  My sister fell off her tube and that's when chaos happened.
 My teacher/big brother instinct at this point snapped into focus. I had to get her out of the water.  Adrenaline is magic and gave me the strength to get out of the strong rivers currents.  It was surprising how calm I was at this point, but I think it had to do with the years of training I received while working with special needs people.  I was grateful for that experience because it came in hand.  I watched my sister get caught in the now powerful current.  There were 3 things I could do.  And if they all failed, I would have lost my sister to either drowning or a waterfall around the bend.  The rain began to fall harder.  Plan A.  My sister was screaming for help and her head was bobbing up and down.  There is nothing worse than feeling helpless, but the current was taking her near the riverbank.  I ran and ran and ran screaming "GRAB THE BRANCH!!"  She did, but the branch broke and off she went.  Plan A died.  Plan B.  I don't think I've ever run as fast as I have in my life.  Barefoot through the woods, my feet were getting bit up by the thousands of ants all along the muddy path.    I saw another  spot I could grab her and pull her up.  The current pulled her again close to the shore and this time I had her stop and gently pull herself towards my hand.  The river, thankfully, had trees leaning into the water from the bank.  Once I pulled her up, I began to cry and we hugged each other tightly.  And right after that moment, the adrenaline left my body and I collapsed onto the ground.  Yeah...that part sucked. I felt like Bruce Banner after being the Hulk. 
We walked back to the village greatful for our lives and awake.  Not just living....but awake and alive.  Everyday is such a routine, but this incident reminded me of what's important in this life.  We came back to our cabana and sat down exhausted.  The rain was really coming down now and lightening flashed all around us.  And for a monsoon storm, it was pretty bad.  The rain subsided and we went for dinner at a simple little place.  We had the most delicious chicken and fries.  Frogs jumped up on the concrete by our plastic table and helped themselves to bugs.  Fireflies, so many fireflies, circled around our patio and lit up the night sky.  It was like every moment was heightened by the near death experience.  We would face one more scare before enjoying the rest of our trip. On our way back to the cabana, we saw snakes and lots of nighttime critters crossing the dirt roads.
To this day, my sister and I both remember our first day in the village of Lanquin. The village of the glowing green rivers and underwater caves. 


  1. scorpion is horrible:) very nice pictures. Thanks for sharing. wait for my blog

  2. Chaos with luckily a happy ending! Life is an everyday miracle.

  3. What an experience. Wonderful that it turned out well!

  4. Yikes...glad that this story ended well, for both of you.

  5. So am I....Nothing has come close to that experience and I hope it never does!

  6. This post was very compelling, and I can see how it would change your outlook on life. I am glad this remarkable adventure had a happy ending.

    Les @ A Tidewater Gardener


Thanks for stopping by!